We’re now approaching almost a year since the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) first started publicly releasing Community Profile Reports, massive documents containing COVID-19 data at the state, county, and metro area levels.
Last year, Thanksgiving was a turning point in the winter 2020 surge. This year, we saw cases increase once again in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving. But we’re better protected this time, thanks to vaccines and better knowledge of the virus.
On Thanksgiving, my Twitter feed was dominated not by food photos, but by news of a novel coronavirus variant identified in South Africa earlier this week. While the variant—now called Omicron, or B.1.1.529—likely didn’t originate in South Africa, data from the country’s comprehensive surveillance system provided enough evidence to suggest that this variant could be more contagious than Delta, as well as potentially more able to evade human immune systems.
As is typically the case on holidays, Thanksgiving has made COVID-19 reporting a bit wonky. Still, cases seem to continue trending up at the national level. The U.S. is now reporting close to 100,000 new cases a day, and holiday travel is likely to push this number up further.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a reader question from a friend of mine who recently got engaged! He and his fiancée are planning a wedding in summer 2023, and he asked me: “How likely do you think it is that (1) the COVID-19 pandemic remains a serious danger to our safety in the summer of 2023 and (2) the government still has the energy to keep enforcing COVID-19 restrictions?”
On Friday morning, the FDA authorized booster shots of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines for all adults in the U.S., six months after their first two doses. The CDC’s vaccine advisory committee voted to support this expanded booster eligibility that afternoon, and CDC leadership signed off on it a few hours later.
Last week, I wrote that the U.S. was at the start of a winter surge; this week, the surge is beginning to take off. Nationwide, cases are up 16% from last week to this week, and up 24% from two weeks ago. It’s not as sharp of an increase as what we saw during the first Delta surge in the summer, but it’s still concerning.